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Future Of European Wellness, Travel, Spa And Beauty: 10 Expert Predictions

With all the changes afoot in Europe, including the dramatic exit of the UK from the EU, we recently tapped top CEOs from travel, spa and beauty companies, economists and researchers to help us predict where European wellness is heading.

With all the changes afoot in Europe, including the dramatic exit of the UK from the EU, we recently tapped top CEOs from travel, spa and beauty companies, economists and researchers to help us predict where European wellness is heading. Predictions ranged from an increase in the "legislating of wellness" through taxation on unhealthy products to a surge in new wellness destinations and experiences across Eastern Europe.

"Get Thee to a Wellness Monastery"
(Expert: Dr. Franz Linser, GWS Board Member & 2016 Co-Chair; Founder, Linser Hospitality; former Olympic ski coach, Austria)

The European (and global) consumer is facing unprecedented stress and 24/7 digital connection and "noise." Radically pressured lives mean we don't feel well anymore, and it's creating new desires: for complete time out, uncompromising peace and quiet, and to be close to the forces of nature. European wellness/spa resorts will increasingly shift their focus from glitzy, amenity-driven, "exotic" luxury to meet these powerful needs.

Spa 2.0: Rise of the European Mini-kur
(Expert: Anna Bjurstram, GWS Board Member; VP of Spas & Wellness, Six Senses; Owner, Raison D'Etre, Sweden)

Bathing, and going on serious (10-day-plus) kurs, has always been a way of life in Europe. But now this time-honored, time-intensive tradition is emerging as a much shorter affair. Expect "mini-kurs" that pack in a 2-3 hour bathing ritual, spa treatments, nutritious food, movement, relaxation, and meditation/mindfulness (in one day or two) will trend.

After Stagnation in Europe, Investment and Innovation are Coming
(Experts: Sue Harmsworth, MBE, GWS Board Member & 2016 Co-chair; Founder & Chairman, ESPA International, UK and Anna Bjurstram, GWS Board Member; VP of Spas & Wellness, Six Senses; Owner, Raison D'Etre, Sweden)

When it comes to wellness, Europe has always been out in front. The region invented the concept of "holistic wellness" as we know it today. But, in recent years, European wellness offerings have stagnated, while offerings in places like Asia and the Americas have taken a leading role. Expect a big departure from this status quo for European wellness in the future.

Wellness Travel Will Be Fastest Growing Tourism Sector
(Expert: Jean-Claude Baumgarten, GWS Board Member; Chairman & CEO, CREWE Associates; Former President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council, France)

As Europe rapidly moves towards a service economy, tourism suddenly has greater absolute value than sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and chemicals, representing nearly 60% of Europe's entire retail sector. And, with vastly increased stress, an aging population, and people's new quest for total wellbeing, over the next decades European wellness tourism will grow significantly faster than tourism overall. Given the dramatic events of recent weeks and months, people are embracing holidays and relaxation more than ever and the prediction is that wellness travel will prove a great antidote to the chaos much of the world is currently experiencing.

Eastern European Wellness Properties and Traditions Revealed
(Expert: Alla Sokolova, Initiative Chair, "Baltic to the Black Sea," Global Wellness Institute; Co-owner, General Manager, IWC Balans, Latvia)

European wellness seekers will increasingly "head east," from the New Europe stretching from the Baltic to the Black Seas, further out to the Asian Caspian Sea. This region will undergo exciting wellness resort development, opening up their fascinating, little known wellness traditions to the world. Many forces are driving this eastward Wellness Renaissance, including former Soviet republics regaining their footing, leading global wellness brands (whether Six Senses in Kazakhstan or Chenot Palace coming to Azerbaijan) making moves - and the wellness property pipelines are heating up in Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia - and the seaside "Stans."

Branded Hot Springs Properties
(Expert: Andrew Gibson, GWS Board Member; VP Spa and Wellness, FRHI Hotels and Resorts, United Arab Emirates)

Look out for more chains of branded hot springs properties (ala Hungary-based Danubius Hotels Group) to stretch from Poland in the North to Moldova in the South. These will be fantastic thermal water retreats integrating medicine and wellness, and capitalizing on Eastern Europe's (including countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia's) abundant natural springs and kurs, long-established medical-wellness retreats, and rich-in-culture cities.

Legislated Wellness Will Affect "Big Food" Companies
(Expert: Thierry Malleret, PhD, GWI research partner; co-founder/author of the Monthly Barometer; founder, Global Risk Network at the World Economic Forum, Switzerland)

European nations will increasingly tax unhealthy food and beverages - and "Big Food" will remake themselves as wellness companies. More than half of European adults are overweight, with obesity in many European countries having tripled since the 80s World Health Organization (WHO). The sheer cost of this epidemic means that more European nations will take action by taxing unhealthy food and beverages, expanding the laws beyond sugar taxes on canned drinks to include "bad" fats (like palm oil), high salt and highly processed foods.

The Wellness of Beauty: Inside Out
(Expert: Jacqueline Clarke, Wellness Research Director, Diagonal Reports, Ireland)

The legacy global beauty culture is largely a European creation, where the focus has long been on the "cosmetic" (or external "appearance" and "artifice"). But a megatrend unfolding in Europe (as it has in the U.S. and Asia) is wellness-as-beauty...or "beauty from the inside out." And this dramatically different philosophy and aesthetic will shake up the marketing strategies and sales monopolies of the big cosmetic/skincare houses.

High-Tech Beauty Hits Europe
(Expert: Michael Schummert, GWS partner; CEO, Babor GmbH & Co., Germany)

Near-medical, high-tech, device-driven beauty procedures are a booming market in the Americas and Asia, and are coming to Europe. We will see European hotel spas increasingly offer sophisticated "I-want-results-immediately" treatments using all types of cutting-edge beauty technology.

Distinction Between "Wellness," "Wellbeing" & "Happiness"

This prediction is from me. I believe major distinctions will emerge between the terms "Wellness, Wellbeing & Happiness." Shifts in language indicate shifts in thinking, and, recently (in Europe and globally), the concept of "wellness" has been confused with the terms "wellbeing" and "happiness." This has been spurred by important research that measures "happiness" (i.e., the "United Nations World Happiness Index") and "wellbeing" (i.e., the "Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index") in nations around the world. These studies have helped put "happiness" and "wellbeing" on the global stage, with a growing implication that these are "bigger," more capacious concepts than wellness.

But they also reveal why confusing "wellness" and "wellbeing" is problematic. For one, "happiness" measurements are often not good indicators of a population's health. An example: Mexico ranked #10 (out of 200+ countries) in Gallup's well-being report, despite having the highest obesity rates in the world. Measuring happiness is very important, but we don't want to lose sight of the goal: taking action to create a healthier world. It's not enough to take the "heartbeat" of happiness...we have to change people's heartbeats.

You can find an extend report on the Future of European Wellness, Travel, Spa and Beauty here: